The series between the Sun County Panthers and the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs may be the best series of the opening round. Both teams can lay claim to being the hottest team in the Alliance over the final month of the season. Sun County went on a great run to end the year, going 8-1-4 from the December showcase to the end of the year. The Chiefs were on the outside looking in before going on a run that saw them go undefeated in their final 11 games of the season. When looking ahead to this matchup, it is a classic offense versus defense battle.
Sun County defeated Elgin-Middlesex 8-5 on September 17th
Sun County defeated Elgin-Middlesex 4-3 on November 19th
Sun County defeated Elgin-Middlesex 4-0 on December 10th
Sun County Elgin-Middlesex
Matt Maggio 20-24-44 Rylan Bowers 14-30-44
Zane Dalpe 16-22-38 Michael McKnight 16-24-40
Ryan Gagnier 19-11-30 Tyler Mosher 9-15-24
The Panthers offense came out guns blazing at the beginning of the season and has been led by maybe the purest goal scorer in the league this season in Matt Maggio. Maggio was the goal scorer, but 2nd year minor midget forward Zane Dalpe was also showcasing his scoring ability along with his strong physical play. Ryan Gagnier is a great two-way forward who quietly finished in the top five in goals this season. Add in secondary scoring from John Ulicny, Addison Major and Liam Hall and no wonder Sun County led the league in goals this season.
Elgin-Middlesex took some time to find their groove offensively, but they have done so over the past couple months of the season. Rylan Bowers was one of the top forwards last year at bantam and while it took him some time, Bowers was a top five forward for the final month of the season and has been playing his best hockey. Add in the emergence of first line forward Michael McKnight and secondary scoring from the likes of Colton Wiacek and Cam Krupa and the Chiefs have a underrated offensive game.
The Panthers defense went through some change midseason and that just happened to coincide with the run Sun County went on to end the season. While the Panthers don’t have big names, it’s the steadiness they have that makes them effective. Brendan Kennette has one of the better players for Sun County on defense and while he was a fairly late addition, Cole Matlock has also impressed in his limited time with the team.
The strength of the Chiefs team begins on the blue line. Elgin-Middlesex has a lot of players who have improved vastly through this season and couple who could be added to a list of top D in the league. Billy Faragher is their number one both defensively and offensively. His smarts in his own end are great and his work on offense is just as good. Nathan Small is another player who has a good mix of offense and defense while Nolan Adkins is more of the stereotypical stay at home defense.
This is the area where I think both Sun County and Elgin-Middlesex are matched up the closest. SCP has a good duo of Nicholas Chenard and Kagan Awram-Doherty. Chenard’s size had him pegged as one of the better goaltending prospects in the Alliance prior to the season beginning. Despite some high goal totals in the early part of the year, Chenard has rebounded well and Awram-Doherty has played exceedingly well in some big games.
The Chiefs goaltending starts with Bryce Walcarius who has put himself in the conversation as having one of the better years in the Alliance this season. Gordie O’Dwyer has been reliable when called upon and even managed to grab three shutouts this season.
Goaltending is probably the tightest aspect to call between these two teams. I’d give an incredibly tight margin of victory to Sun County here but it’s really a toss up. If any team has a netminder catch a hot streak, that could be the difference.
Like I’ve said on numerous occasions, this is a tough series to call. Both teams have hit their stride at the same tie with Elgin’s last loss this year coming at the hands of the Panthers. Anytime there is a series that has a great offensive team against a staunch defensive squad, I always go with the scoring team and this series will be no different. It’ll be close and as I said earlier, one strong run from any goaltender could flip this series in a completely different direction.
Sun County Panthers over Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs in five games.
Players To Watch:
Sun County Panthers – John Ulicny
Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs – Billy Faragher